Electric yellow corncobs and the burnt orange woolen coats of Highland cattle pierce the blankets of blinding white snow in Burlington, Wisconsin. At a distance, with a sturdy fence between, this Scottish breed can give an impression of ferocity. Their wavy locks frozen into icicles, dangle like a spiked breastplate. Steam billows audibly from their nostrils. Their horns reach up tot he sky in a power stance that could quite literally knock you off your feet.
However, the closer you get to one of these long-haired beauties, the more you realize how flawed first impressions can be. Yes, these mighty beasts are huge—weighing up to 1,800 pounds—but they are surprisingly docile and good tempered. If they see you coming, they’ll slowly head your direction, hoping for a good brushing session. Highland cattle are well suited to cold temperatures, luckily enough for the four legged inhabitants of Four T Acres who often find themselves in winter flurries. And those terrifying horns are tools to dig for plants to eat beneath snow’s surface.
In a stark contrast to the large mammals slowly plodding across the pastures, you’ll find sixteen year old, Brooklynn Roszak, briskly making her way along the snowy slopes of her grandparents’ farm. She feels a bit less at home in the low temperatures than her shaggy companions, but that won’t keep her indoors for long.
The property has been in Brooklyn’s family for generations. But there was a time when it fell dormant. That is until 2003, when Rich and Jean Gruenert introduced 3 registered purebred Scottish Highland cows and 6 calves to the land. The entire family felt immediately connected to the gentle giants, eventually increasing their numbers into a herd. Those once intimidating nostrils, breathed new life into Four T Acres.
Brooklyn, like the rest of her family, has a deep affection for Highland cows. She is part of the Junior Association, supported by the NCHCA (North Central Highland Cattle Association). Each year, she participates in 2 to 3 cattle shows and has won many awards along the way. As a junior in high school, Brooklyn participates in a lot of activities. Some of her favorites are trap shooting on her school’s team and hunting with her dad. She even holds down a job on top of it all.
Life on the farm has brought Brooklnn closer to her family, instilled a great appreciation for detail and thoroughness, broadened her sense of community, and allowed her to meet new people as she travels to cattle competitions in new places.
Jean Gruenert, pictured above, is Brooklynn’s grandmother. The farm was originally her grandfather’s, passed down to her father, and it now belongs to her. Jean loves when folks visit the farm. There’s a lot to learn about Scottish Highland cattle, and she’s anxious to share. The Gruenerts host school field trips, allowing young people an opportunity to learn about farming first hand while getting closer to their food source.
Four T Acres has participated in several studies, gathering information on various beefs. Time and time again, the results have proven that the meat from Highland cattle is superior to Angus on scales of tenderness and flavor.
“The Highland breeds are the coolest breed of cattle you will ever meet and by far the most interesting. When it comes to iconic domestic animals, the Highland cow is instantly recognizable across the globe. With their fluffy coats and long horns, they are an important part of Scotland’s culture. These cows are perfect in many ways. They adapt to harsh conditions, they’re the oldest registered beef breed of cattle in the world, and they have an outstanding beef quality so their meat tastes delicious and is also very healthy.” -Brooklynn Roszak
“I love being able to grab one of the combs and walk into the pasture and go spend some time with the animals. Having them walk up to me and letting me comb them is so fun and it makes me feel good knowing I have their trust and they are comfortable with me.” -Brooklynn Roszak
“I’ll admit, it was scary to enter the show ring for the first time with everyone watching, but with my family by my side to guide me through everything, it was easy-peasy. Each show I have won awards, whether it’s ribbons, trophies, or plaques to hang on my wall. With being a part of the Junior Association and showing in general, I have met so many new people from all over the country and made many new friends!” -Brooklynn Roszak
Advice from Brooklynn about working with Highland Cattle:
Highland cattle are known for their calm nature and easy going disposition. That being said, there are some techniques and rules that people will learn as they go through years with their own herds of cattle. Some great tips include:
- Spend time with your cattle. Highlands are social animals. They know their herd mates and how to interact with them. Become a part of that herd. If possible, walk out among them several times a week, even if only for a few minutes. Let them get to know who you are. The more familiar they are with you, the easier it will be when you need to move or handle them.
- This time spent with them is also a good time to check for problems such as injuries or illness. The more familiar you are with them, the easier it is to recognize when something isn’t normal.
- Move slowly around the cattle. Fast movement indicates to the herd that something is wrong. Even the calmest animal will run the other way if you go running down to the fence or run up to the herd. Take your time when approaching them and let them know that you are there with both verbal and visual cues.
“Throughout the years of being involved with the farm, it has brought me closer to my dad and his side of the family. And that I am extremely grateful for. Along with new experiences, I have learned many life lessons along the way.
- I have learned to value the commitment. Farming and working with cattle has taught me that in every task, may it be big or small, once it has been started you should be giving it your best and not let it be left undone.
- Another thing I have learned is that great things take time. At first, I was the new kid from the city and I wasn’t 1st place ribbon status yet. I learned from these experiences and figured out how to accept little disappointments in my life and be patient.
- And lastly but most importantly, family and teamwork is very important on the farm. No matter what struggles come along, we all have each others backs and help each other out in any way we can. I am very grateful for the opportunities my family has given me by showing me what the farm life is like.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my dad and grandparents by my side teaching me the rights and wrongs of life and all the good things farming can teach children.” -Brooklyn Roszak
Learn more about Four T Acres here.